GUARDIANS OF THE FLAME JACK STARR - OCTOBER 2001
METAL HEART INTERVIEW. by MARINA

Everybody who is interested in Metal should know the name Jack Starr. In the 80`s he became famous as guitar player and founder of the legendary VIRGIN STEELE, but after only two studio albums, Jack and VS split up and he concentrated on his own projects. After two decades, he's now presenting the first songs of his new project GUARDIANS OF THE FLAME, which for sure will keep flame burning.

MH 2001: After a very long break you returned to the scene a few months ago. What have you done in these years and why did you take such a long time off? How do you feel right now?

JS: In the year from 1992 to 1997 I really didn't play much heavy metal music but instead I was playing like a hard rock type of blues like Stevie Ray Vaughn which is another type of music that I love. The funny thing is that the people that heard me would say that my blues had a lot of hard rock influence so my guitar playing was always very agressive and rooted in metal, I had some personal problems and I was very disoriented after a divorce so I needed time to figure out if metal was still for me, how I feel now is great and I think that it is a good time for me to come back to the scene and I think that the music I am playing for me is the same as it was in 1984 and I feel the same excitment as before. I really miss playing live and I hope to do more when I sign the record deal.

MH 2001: You are for two decades in the "Rock Music Business". What's the most important lesson you have learned?

The most important lesson I learned is not to be afraid and not worry about who is popular but to be yourself.

MH 2001: Which were your influences and Rock "heros" since you were a kid, and which was your motivation to create or become a member of a band?

When I was in high school in Long Beach, New York, Led Zeppelin were popular and Black Sabbath, I still love those two bands. Also I liked Mountain, which was a New York band with a very large guitarist named Leslie West. I thought he was incredible. My motivation for being a guitarist was very simple. I wanted to be loved or at least liked. I think that almost all people that become artists have a strong need for love and approval, perhaps they didn't get enough from their parents so they have a need to perform and hear applause and someone tell them that was great. I know I still love that, but now as I'm older, I try very hard to please myself and I'm my most difficult critic.

MH 2001: You have kind of a cult status for some musicians and metal fans since your days with Virgin Steele. What do you think about that?

It is amazing that after all these years I am remembered, especiallywhen my first records, the first three I did with Virgin Steele, have never even been on CD!! This will soon change as I am soon signing a deal to release the original albums with the original artwork and the original songs. I am very happy because I have received a lot of mail asking me about it and those fans do not want to hear new versions of the old songs, they want the real thing and as Manowar says "blow your speakers with rockn'roll". When I went in the studio to remaster the old albums it made love those records again. I had not heard "Virgin Steele 2" in almost 10 years, when I heard the old tapes which had to be placed in an oven to bond the tape I was amazed. I thought that it still sounded fresh. Now I enjoy listening to the CD's I made in the studio and soon they will be available again. On a few songs where my tape masters were too old I was fortunate enough to have acetate test pressings that had never been played and they sounded great.

MH 2001: How disappointed were you when Virgin Steele recruited a new guitarrist and there was no place left for you in the band? I guess you have answered the question a thousand times before but... what happened?

I was not just disappointed but I was hurt. I thought that Dave DeFeis was my friend and when he wouldn't even meet with me to look in my eyes and tell me it was like a knife in my heart. When I think about it even today so many years later I'm still hurt and confused by his action. We were doing great and Dave and myself truly had magic on stage and in the studio. The only explanation I can think of is MONEY. This sometimes makes good people do bad things. We had a manager named Zoren Busic, he also managed a band called SAGA. I think this person didn't like me or thought that I'd be a problem and he probably convinced Dave to fire me. I don't think Dave would have done such a horrible thing by himself, especially after I hired him and did so much to help him.

MH 2001: Do you still follow the career of Virgin Steele? What do you think about the release of "The Book Of Burning" featuring songs from "Virgin Steele I" and "Guardians Of The Flame" re-recorded with the current VS line-up?

Yes, I know many of the new music of David's band. Some of it is very good especially "Noble Savage" which is a name that I thought of and was never given credit for the song. "Noble Savage" is brilliant and I know that if I never met Dave that song would not have existed!! That is the only song that, after I left the band, when I heard it I had a sense of "deja vu", the song has my fingerprints on it and sounds very much like the kind of arabian sounding riff that we used to jam on. In 1997 when I came back to metal I wrote a song called "The Chosen Ones", it has the same kind of arabian feel to it. This song I recorded with Dave singing and the bass player of Virgin Steele, the wonderful Rob DeMartino who is truly gifted on the bass and many other instruments. I was surprised when Dave fired him too after being with the band for quite a long time. That song was part of a 4 song recording session that I called the REUNION OF STEELE SESSIONS because it was the first time that Dave and myself had entered a studio together in more than ten years and those sessions proved that the magic was still there. Now I hear that Dave is taking some of those songs and re-recording them. I would love the fans of early Steele, new Steele and Jack Starr to be able to hear them exactly as they were and that is what I will do. They will be part of any record deal that I sign because I am very proud of those songs and I want to share them with my brothers and sisters of metal.

MH 2001: You have done other stuff but itís the Heavy/Power Metal music that is your favourite style. What is it about this style of music that captures your interest?

I love metal, the power, the majesty and the way it makes me feel. Sometimes in this crazy world we feel that we have no power and when I listen to metal and I play metal I feel powerful, it gives me courage.

MH 2001: When you look back on your career... which of the albums are you most proud of and which would you like to strike off your list (if any)???

I would like to get rid of an album that I did called "Rock The American Way", it was too commercial. I was trying to be something that I wasn't and that will never happen again!!

MH 2001: Guardians Of The Flame is your latest project. Does this name have any special meaning for you? How would you describe its sound?

Guardians Of The Flame is the name I came up with for the second Virgin Steele album. It's a strong name that states its intentions clearly. It says we are here, we are proud and we will hold up this flame called Heavy Metal. The music we are playing is exactly the same as it was in 1984, except we all play better! (thank God I learned something in 18 years!). It's music that is melodic and yet hard. It's passionate music that will stir emotions and isn't that why we are alive?

MH 2001: It would be cool, if you could maybe introduce the band and tell us the story how you won them for the band and what they did before they joined the band.

The band is Joe O'Reilley on bass guitar, who is the original bass player of Virgin Steele, Scott Oliva on vocals, Tony Mattassa on drums (he was in the band Majesty which later became Dream Theater, he is a wonderful drummer and an old friend of mine) and on guitar some guy named Jack Starr.

MH 2001: I've read that Chris Collins is no longer with you. So why did he leave or had to leave the band? Have you found a replacement for him?

Chris Collins is one of the best singers I have ever heard anywhere. His vocals got Majesty their major label deal and I love him like a brother, but for some strange reason we always get into bad arguments when we are together so it was decided that maybe it is not such a good idea to play together. I found another great singer named Scott Oliva.

MH 2001: This year you played some festivals including Metal Meltdown and Powermad. How were these experiences?

The festivals were great and as we say in America, I was happy to get my feet wet again. I don't know if this saying makes sense in spanish but it means happy to be back to doing something that I love.

MH 2001: What are your further plans for the rest of the year? I heard, that you maybe want to record a full length album later this year!?

My goals this year are to put out a record of new metal and I have started to record demos of those songs which I am very proud of. Once we are on a label we will play shows to support the album and maybe a concert promoter will invite us to Europe and I will finally be able to play there again. I really miss it.

MH 2001: Is there still a special goal left, that you want to reach as a musician?

The goal is to make great music and for a small moment make people happy and touch them. The second part of this goal is to make a living doing it so I would like to be sucessful but only if I deserve it. I had some success in the past and I can feel it coming again like an old friend that's knocking on my door.

MH 2001: How do you view the current Metal scene? What is your personal view of the Metal scene in Europe?

The metal scene in Europe is great, it's like America was in the eighties. I love it and I think it is great all the magazines and concerts and bands and the fans who still love this music.

MH 2001: What new bands do you like? Do you think there is still something to be created by the new bands?

I like a lot of the new bands like Stratovarius and Chinchilla and HammerFall and I like Nevermore and I like Manowar a lot. There are many great bands new and old and yes, I think that they can add something to Metal. Everybody has a story to tell and everyone tells it their own way, that's the beauty of life and Metal too!! I think that answers 17 too.

MH 2001: Thanks a lot Jack, all the best with the band! Any message for the end? Last words are yours...

In the end I want to thank the spanish metal fans for keeping the flame of metal alive, and in the country that is the home of the guitar, it is an honor to be appreciated there. I want to finish by saying that I am just a normal guy, I have 2 sons Julian and Matt, who love Heavy Metal, and make me very proud to be their father, I have a beautiful fiance named Sharon who I wrote the song on my demo "Sharon Of The Woods" for, and I love animals, we have 4 dogs and a racoon who lives in the house. I hope to meet you all on tour Peace & Metal
Jack Starr